Photo: José Díaz

“Caracas looks like the rest of the country, and the rest of the country looks like a ghost town,” we overheard a lady say in the Sabana Grande Bvd., one of the areas with greater commercial tradition in the Venezuelan capital.

If you look around, there’s only closed stores. It was a regular Monday, except for the fact that it was the day president Nicolás Maduro’s economic package turned a month old.

On September 17, Carmen Contreras, mother of two teenagers (on of them still in elementary school), went to the boulevard to buy a pair of shoes for school and some supplies. It was 2:30 p.m., and even though she’d been looking around for a while, she couldn’t find anything. Sabana Grande was deserted.

“I expected something else, I imagined that after the 15th there’d be more movement, because we have a new salary, but this is dead.”

Juan Contorianos, spokesman of the Sabana Grande Merchant’s Association, explains that the situation is due to store owners that can’t replenish their inventories, and provides us with alarming figures: 600 out of 2,500 businesses remain closed due to issues with foreign currency access.

“That’s a lot of closed shops,” says Carmen. “They destroyed Sabana Grande.”

What about the shops that were open? “BsS. 3,000 for a pair of school shoes. I can’t afford that, not even with credit cards. I haven’t even thought about buying school supplies, the only sovereign thing here is the insult of how much a notebook costs.”

“The reconversion created more poverty. I work hard, and now I don’t know how I’ll send my kid to school, I hope the lab I work at doesn’t go bankrupt.”

Dangerous measures

On August 17, the president revealed a new set of economic measures that include an increased minimum wage, the price of gas (a mystery to this day), the VAT, and a series of agreements with various companies were fixed prices were established for over 30 products of the basic food basket.

Between January and August, the prices hike equals 34,680.7%, while the annual inflation stood at 200,005%, according to the National Assembly’s Delegate Commission.

The only sovereign thing here is the insult of how much a bound notebook costs.

After the paquetazo, between the reconversion and the bolívar soberano implementation, the generalized perception is that prices are out of control. In every queue, in every corner, in each shop, there’s no sense of improvement, just anguish and uncertainty in a population already in despair because of hyperinflation.

Now, this doesn’t affect consumers only. Paying wages is a new concern for smalls business-owners, and many have been forced to fire up to 90% of their payroll, according to Juan Contorianos.

María Carolina Uzcátegui, Consecomercio’s president, says that the cost structure of small and medium enterprises was affected by a 60%.

“That’s the reason why many shops are closed, mainly beauty salons, butcher shops, shoe stores, restaurants, small grocery stores. Higher costs result in no sales, people are now using all of their income to buy food. Venezuelans are only thinking about eating.”

Consecomercio classifies three types of closed enterprises: the company that said “I can’t take it anymore, I’m closing,” the company that closes temporarily and fires staff while they wait for a change, and the company that hasn’t closed but puts up a “clearance” sign. Uzcátegui calculated a 40% of closed stores. Four years ago, the average was 25%.

Caracas’ urban memory is one of the victims, with the foreclosure of arepera El Tropezón, after more than 50 years of commercial life.

Targeted enterprises

Paula Itriago, director of the Venezuelan Chamber of Shopping Malls (Cavececo),was a little more conservative with numbers, talking from 5% to 10% of vacant stores as a general rule.

“What we’re measuring now is the impact of the minimum wage increase in the industry. This is a topic that we’ve worked on, with the uncertainty of the Patria website; we don’t know how workers will enroll in the system.”

I work hard, and now I don’t know how I’ll send my kid to school, I hope the lab I work at doesn’t go bankrupt.

For Cavececo, with 130 thousand affiliates and over 500,000 workers, the hardest part is keeping contractual working agreements and overcoming the massive workforce drain, a problem also present in health and education. Freddy Ceballos, president of the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela (Fefarven), talks about 150 closed pharmacies (today, there’s one pharmacy per every 7,000 inhabitants, when there should be one per every 2,000).

Schools, already struggling with the number of teachers leaving the country (even from public schools), now have to deal with the wage hike.

Fausto Romeo, head of the Private Schools Association, estimates that this year 15% of schools might close. We’re talking around 400 to 500 preschools, elementary schools and high schools that just won’t open their doors.

If malls and boulevards like Sabana Grande used to be windows for consumerism, now the locked doors are the mirror of a crisis that worker and employer suffer from at the same time. It’s the decadence of mismanagement: the collapse of basic services, crime, some avenues deserted while others are packed with pedestrians, since there’s no more public transport.

Caracas sleeps even on weekdays now, and not even the start of the school year makes the future less grim.

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61 COMMENTS

  1. Sabana Grande was incredible pre-Chavez. Incredible shopping.

    I even remember great shopping in the below-grand mall, metro station, under the Anauco Hilton and arts center.

  2. Mabel, excellent summary–and the full paquetazo effect hasn’t yet been felt, as the gasoline price hike is just starting to be rolled out nationwide–imagine the effect of near-intl. gasoline pricing on public/private transport availability, final cost of retail goods, kilometers-long lines as internet/electricity outages disable Carnet De La Patria electronic reading devices, not to mention that these devices/data bases probably wont work much of the time, etc., etc.–and who trusts a Ven. Govt./banking system to credit one’s Carnet “subsidy” when today a simple bank-to-bank transfer can take a week or more?

      • Prima facie, 2015 figures seem too high, but I’m sure 2017/2018-to-date are much lower by all estimates. Why Machado/Fedeagro said this?–may be coddling Govt. favor by understating the real Ven. agropecuario disaster??

        • I’m sure 2017/2018-to-date are much lower by all estimates
          Judging from what CC’s countryside commenter has been saying for over a year, that sounds like a safe bet. FAO already has >50% decline in cereals (corn/rice) production from 2014-2016. Worse and worse.

          Why Machado/Fedeagro said this?–may be coddling Govt. favor by understating the real Ven. agropecuario disaster??
          And that with Machado/Fedagro’s 36% decline in per capita production from 1998-2016.
          The story from 2014 2014 onward, when high oil prices could no longer hide gross mismanagement of the economy: Can it get worse? Yes. Worse every year.

          Precisely what is Ven agricultural production? I don’t know.

  3. “Venezuelans are only thinking about eating.”

    Cuban master plan working to perfection. Easily predictable, and people still seem surprised. Quite simple: destroy the economy, kick millions of malcontents out of Narco-Cubazuela, Cuba’s oily colony, so they won’t protest or conspire. And so they send lots of fresh dollars and euros back.

    Deal lots of Drugs to get even richer, while you continue to impoverish the remaining populace, largely composed of older people, clueless zombies, the ignorant, uneducated, unskilled pueblo. Plus the Millions of complicit, Corrupt Enchufados, everywhere, in every parroquia, every small town and big city, at every social level, from the lowest workers/obreros -enchufados con su ‘calnet de la patria’ and worse- to office workers, mid-management, to top management. Corrupt, complicit, or out of the country, for the most part. Or eating wild pigeons, stray cats plus a few wild mangoes by the ravaged countryside.

    Years go by, the another decade, and the remaining inhabitants of Caracas’ carcass, and other large cities get used to living in poverty, misery even famine. Just like in Haiti or in Africa. Worse than Cuba. They get used to their Ranchos and digging in garbage for food.

    The new generations of little Kleptozuelans are born in the Klepto-Narco-Cubazuelan system: they’ve never seen anything better or different. It’s normal for them to get Enchufados, beg, steal, deal drugs or live in poverty. Or, for the smarter ones, try to climb in the filthy ranks of Chavismo ‘government’, as the new, up-coming mega-thieves for decades to come. Next thing you know it’s year 2050 and Kleptozuela remains as bad or worse than Zimbabwe. All according to the Cuban/Russian/Chinese communist-capitalist Master Plan, while the bogus “international community” keeps “condemning” the failed narco-regime, while doing absolutely nothing to remove it. Civilized Nations all have bigger fish to fry than dealing with yet another failed, under-developed country from the 5th world.

  4. They can’t imprison and/or kill millions, It’s just impossible BUT one needs a pueblo that acctualy gives a fuck and is willing to stand up and fight for a better life. Unfortunately 99% of Venezuelans doesn’t have the guts/backbone/balls to do anything else but hacer más colas y quejándose todo los días.

    I therefore take my hat off to those cunt chavistas, you’re doing a outstanding job, keep it up because you’re very close to consolidating power for ever just like the Castro’s have done.

    Venezuela lo merece esta dictadura, que se jode el cobarde pendejo pueblo!!!

    • WRONG

      “Unfortunately 99% of Venezuelans doesn’t have the guts/backbone/balls to do anything else but hacer más colas y quejándose todo los días”

      99.9999999% – That leaves Oscar Perez and his fellow heros

      • Unfortunately you’re right, they can sing all day every day about them being el “bravo” pueblo but the last 2 decades have proven they are anything but. Venezuelans are the North Koreans of South America.

    • “They can’t imprison and/or kill millions…”
      Please take a cursory look at history. Marxists killed 100 million to 200 million in only the past one hundred years. In the marxist play-book, “depopulation” comes right after “impoverish and enslave.”

      • Yes that’s true, Marxists have killed huge amouts of people. But we’re in the 21st century and I’m pretty sure that if Chavismo would kill, either by shooting or by starving, thousands upon thousands in a short period of time the U.N. wouldn’t just stand by and do fuck all. The thing is that Chavismo knows perfectly how far it can go and will never make that mistake. Their aim is to stay in power so the stealing can continue. Sure they are killing people as we speak but I don’t see them killing huge numbers.

          • Yes and no, if real genocide happens they do step up. Chavismo’s will avoid that believe you me, they aren’t real convinced Marxists, they are there for one thing and one thing only $€£¥.

  5. IF, one is able economically, today in Venezuela one needs at least a 2-person go-fer staff–one to drive, make gasoline colas, park/stay with the car to keep it from being burglarized (battery/tires/parts/even engine oil), and one with a debit card to pay, making the rounds of largely closed businesses/scarcity trying to scrounge up carne/pollo/trastes/medicines/car essentials/etc. etc., not to mention giving transport to a maid/other household help to/from one’s house.

  6. I hope CC will publish stories about Venezuelans who supported. the Chavista. And I mean contrasting accounts from those who now oppose the Chavistas and those who still in some way support Maduro or at least his programs. It would be interesting to read about what lessons if any former supporters have learned. My overall impression as an outsider is that many would back the basic policies of Chavismo with a democratic overlay and some changes to foreign exchange controls. In other words, assuming Venezuela escapes the dictatorship little else will change policy wise. Is this right? Thanks

  7. If in fact there will be no major policy changes post Maduro why should Venezuelans risk their lives to revolt. What would be the economic upside for those risking their lives for more of the same. Does this explain the strange situation of the lack of protest inder diffifult and deteriorating economic conditions. I hope CC will engage on this topic gor then we could then engage in serious discussions of issues.

  8. Again, it ain’t just Maduro, or the few top Chavistoive Mega-Thieves. It’s the 1300 “generals” in power. It’s Thousands of top crooks, plus millions of complicit, corrupt and ignorant supporters from ‘el pueblo’.
    When those thugs leave, just like in Cuba, others will replace them. And ‘el pueblo’ will remain the same, corrupt, clueless Indians. Until you change that, nothing will change.

    Wanna understand Kleptozuela and why they got themselves in the sewer? Here’s some anonymous guy who is exactly correct:

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8125355648059480100&postID=2548608929255164683&page=1&token=1537808253905

  9. Just watched President Trump’s speech to the U.N. during which he announced that a new round of sanctions against The Inner Circle in Venezuela will be unveiled today. I hope the sanctions have some teeth!

  10. About “policies”, again. Cuba/Russia/China and other international mercenaries RULE Klepto-NARCO-Cubazuela. They do the ‘policies’. Then you have the 1300 ‘generals’, and the Fuerzas armadas. And the Rich, Rich mega thieves, Ramirez style. Thousands more, not all of them in exile. Because they can’t hide and run that easily anymore. That’s who rules, not el burro, not Padrinita, or Cabello and Tarek and Rodriguez. Many, many, many more, plus a corrupt populace. Millions.

    The Cubans and Russians and Chinese with the real power, plus the Venezuelan Mega-Crooks with the real money and power, they know EXACTLY what should be done to start fixing the economy and producing.

    It ain’t focking rocket science, is it?

    But these are CRIMINALS, Thieves. Out to steal and remain in power to avoid jail, at any cost. To get even richer. And then figure out ways to disappear in Russia or the Caribbean. And then many more will follow. Pueblo-people, many more Maduros and Cabellos and Tareks and Ramirez’s.

    Because that’s what Kleptozuela produces: Corrupt Monkeys. Or Corrupt Bolichicos. And clueles zombies from el pueblo.

    Policies.. THAT’s the policy: Continue to steal and avoid prison. They know EXACTLY how to do that. They don’t care about any freaking economy or the people. Obviously. No “policy” will change unless it brings $$$$$$$$$$$ to steal. Comprende? Or unless the freaking CIA sends better drones, snipers or something.

    Now feel free to continue talking about dialogue, MUDcrap, “policies”. Retards like Juan Guerra will lead the corrupt pueblo-people Indians and mega-corrupt Bolichicos in the right direction.. they’ll find the right ‘policies’, huh, in 3 decades perhaps, to continue STEALING.

  11. I was reading online somewhere an interview with a Chavez supporter, who was very very upset with the way things were going in Venezuela. Very angry at the current bunch running the country. She said (paraphrasing)

    “I hate these Maduristas, but what can we do? If we revolt, who should replace them? (she proceeds to name all of the major opposition). No, there is only Chavismo. At least they give us SOMETHING. We need a clean sweep and newer, better Chavists to take control. What a shame that The Eternal Commander is not here to turn things around!”

    A couple of points. She is right about the opposition… useless. The oppos main argument? “We’re not Maduro!” God forbid you ask them about how THEY would turn things around. They want Chavismo as much as El Pueblo does! The oppo just think they can do it better. So why stick your neck out FOR THEM?

    Secondly, El Pueblo is perfectly content with being coddled. “Something for nothing?” Who doesn’t love freebies! Chavez gave them all sorts of shit for several years until the house of cards came crashing down. And the LOVED IT! They remember the glory days, and they think with new leadership, they can get more free shit… all they have to do is wait long enough!

    Lastly, the culture. My wife has always warned me about it. Venezuelans are NOT like Middle America (fly over country). There are very few of El Pueblo who embrace the Protestant work ethic that dominates much of the United States. Who to blame for that? Spain? Portugal? While they love the prettiest girl and the best beisbolero, they sneer at the successful man in the suit, or the smart woman with a career. To the vast majority of El Pueblo, these people are the oppressors who by their success, keep El Pueblo from their piece of the pie.

    • The oil rent became a reality with Gomez since 1910 or so. Since then the government was the main economic player and to appease the people or get a vote it would offer goodies which the oil rent could afford. Venezuela had populism with deep pockets.

      So the government was profligate. It gave free education in the universities and scholarships to study. It gave out houses, it subsidizes products, public health. Some may have been good investments, but in the end it is like spoiling a child, the people developed a sense of entitlement. It is the government that owes them some piece of the oil rent.

      I always crack up when I see a report of some natural disaster in Venezuela. They describe the hardship and always end with “hacemos un llamado al gobierno para que nos ayude”.

  12. Soon after graduating (70’s) I worked out of an office in Boston, which was and is, among other things, a big college town. Sometimes I took the train into North Station then the subway to my office down by the Fort Point Channel.

    Being a young, white dude in a business suit, amongst a zillion lefty college students, was an experience in the clash of American cultures, to say the least. I have been spat upon, my polished shoes trampled, insulted and yelled at, jostled, you name it.

    Heck, I was just a misplaced Ohio farm boy, raised on a Will Rogers philosophy. Didn’t have a clue why so many people hated me. As I became wiser to the world I soon learned what a small and unique culture I came from.

    • You did what 97.83% of Kleptozuelan corrupt indians have not done in decades: Study and work. – (‘chavistas’ or otherwise)- And of course, you left that mess behind long ago.

      Good luck with what the remaining corrupt, uneducated blind sheep have left.. To a large extent they do deserve what they supported and continue to maintain, consciously or not. Chavista crap. What they are, what they supported, for the most part.

      One can only hope there’s something left out of the majestic and unique El Avila mountain range, or La Gran Sabana or Choroni to visit with other exiles one day. Unless that’s sold out to the Chinese already too.

    • Be thankful, that “small and unique culture” (from which I also come, although also schooled in the worldly-wise) was what elected Trump.

  13. Canucklehead are you sleeping at your post? Please see the posts above by this net person . As I have told you before, these types of posts are your que to jump into the conversation and make sure you remind everyone of what we good Marxist already know. Trump is despicable, the U.S. is vile and despicable, most white people are vile and despicable, the U.S. MUST be eliminated in order to achieve our goals of- oh never mind. We have been through these talking points time and time again. Now get in there and start criticizing anything and everything relating to the U.S. and don’t stop unless and until I tell you or I will be forced to stop your monthly checks. Now get to work!

    • “and make sure you remind everyone of what we good Marxist already know”

      Good Marxists? That’s like saying “child loving pedophiles”. You guys are todays cancer. You don’t deserve to live, you should all be put in front the first available wall and be shot. But I case that won’t happen I sincerely hope you have a one-sided car accident in next couple days in which you get paralyzed from the eyebrow down.

    • G Soros

      I don’t normally correct people but I think it is important for you to be in lock step with the rest of the Trump haters.
      We are not “despicable”. According to their Dear Leader we are Deplorable!

      • John. Quite right you are and thank you.
        My apologies to my dear friend Hillary.

        Canucklehead if you are awake today please make note of this!

  14. Today’s announced sanctions are another joke. Seems Trump is listening to the advice of many here:

    Do little and let the country slowly strangle and die on its own.

    I don’t agree, but what the hell do I know? I was sure an oil embargo was coming.

    • 2 other things happened:

      – Trump with Colombia’s president made fun of the venezuelan military about them running scared from explosions. He also said a military coup against Maduro will succeed.

      – Mike Pence talked about Maduro moving troops to the colombian border, said to Maduro to not test the resolve of the US of defend its allies.

      • Venezuelan troops accidentally fire on/massacre Colombian troops on Ven. border with Colombia, a U.S. NATO ally; “Colectivos” storm the U.S.Embassy in Caracas; Ven. shoots down a U.S. recon plane they claim was overflying their “sovereignty”; ….

        • Any number of scenarios… but be assured that there will be no massacre of Colombian troops by the FANB. It would be the polar opposite.

          Does anyone remember the late 1970’s, when Vietnam briefly invaded Cambodia (Khmer Rouge) and China got its undies in a twist, and sent in a “stabilizing force” into the north of Vietnam? These Chinese, who numbered in the millions, came face to face with battle hardened Vietnamese troops, who gave the Chinese an ass kicking. The Chinese troops were completely unprepared for what they encountered, and quickly retreated back to their side of the border.

          Venezuela would get its ass kicked so severely and so quickly by Colombia, it would be almost hysterical. (Cue the Benny Hill music!) Venezuela has fought NOBODY. EVER. Colombia has been kicking ass in a jungle war for 50 years.

  15. The U.S. economy under President Trump is rolling. “There’s no doubt that the U.S. economy is in a boom. The Conference Board is reporting the highest levels of job satisfaction in more than a decade.” (Bloomberg.)

    If the hated Gringos were running Venezuela, it would be booming, too. The question is, which do you prefer: 1) a booming economy “under the imperialist heel” with Gringos in control creating jobs and businesses, creating capital and prosperity, or 2) what you have now with a puro Venezolano disaster based on “socialist ideals”?

    It’s a simple f’ing question. Anyone capable of answering it?

    • Winston Churchill Quote.
      “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

      • The stupidity of leftist is they think people that are ambitious and work hard and make sacrifices want to pay for lazy and illiterate dumb asses to enjoy the same rewards. that in itself is absurd and no matter how good socialism works in Europe sooner or later it will fail too.The world is not flat deal with it !

  16. To G Soros and Canucklehead!
    I’ll fly both of you cunts out, business class, to Venezuela, you can stay at my house in Tinaquillo. It’s a well build house with a huge garden and the house is about 600m2 fully furnished. Please give me your details and I’ll book the flights tomorrow. It’s a one-way ticket and I’ll have someone collecting you and your passports. You can’t leave ever again but you’ll be living the dream. I’ll even make sure you’ll have a full fridge as a welcome gift so you don’t have to worry about that the first week or so. I’ll even give you a $1000 in cash each so you can go bananas. Please accept my offer!!!!!

    • The stupidity of leftist is they think people that are ambitious and work hard and make sacrifices want to pay for lazy and illiterate dumb asses to enjoy the same rewards. that in itself is absurd and no matter how good socialism works in Europe sooner or later it will fail too.The world is not flat deal with it ! Soros and Canuck dumb and dumber

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